President Obama has a funny way of taking down his potential 2012 challengers: he’s praising them every chance he gets. The president has been furiously lauding Mitt Romney’s health care work in Massachusetts, and Jon Huntsman’s work for the administration in China, Politico observes, in what looks suspiciously like an attempt to discredit them with the Republican base.
The tactic is not lost on its targets. “You may have noticed,” Mitt Romney said in New Hampshire last weekend, “that the president and his people spend more time talking about me and Massachusetts health care than Entertainment Tonight spends talking about Charlie Sheen.” The loving attacks indicate that the White House considers Romney and Huntsman threats—both promise to be well-funded moderates. “You’d have to be naïve to believe that they aren’t trying to influence the primary,” says a Huntsman ally.